Your cells scandalized by the thought of you once rumored you into existence one tattling protein at a time You slip of tongue arrived early in a putty of vernix the sensation of your name from Mother’s mouth like a feather Demerol pulled across your skin like a string tightening as its kite whipped away Each new voice became
a slide’s silver rung cooling your palm as you pulled yourself up eight now grace was a thin skin you twisted and picked off The now-unmade bed of your neck was kicked from the foot of this girl who once rose to cheers and saw the velvet backs of pitbulls crashing into one another their muscles thickrooted as gospel Later you’d practice moving your hips in the woods schmoozy with rot as the lake unfolded the crinkled moon like a letter without a destination The stump’s cologne reeking on your pillow as dreams metabolized the laughter when you pronounced both c’s in crescent Say nothing of the powdered beetles that color your lips red Say nothing
of the pond’s gray spine when it rose behind your childhood home those eager arms that stretched out scooped out your sister’s ballet slippers Say nothing of kettled want your daughter’s far-sightedness Or the word you remembered as you ran the paintbrush up and down your graying hair pain braiding through your arm penumbra each syllable a blind clacking open
Dysphagia is what the doctor called it-- A word of quiet parts, a hymnal of fish slowing beneath ice. A form was signed and a tube was inserted into my father’s stomach. We need to ensure he tolerates his feeds A voice with a crease of sympathy thrown like a paper airplane. Each night, the moon’s white blade passing over my head. Each night— the drip. The sharps container clicking open its jaw to belly little bits of him. Then We will send you home with samples. And palliative care is different from hospice. Feeding my father is so much like the first time I fed my daughter. The stunt of swallowing, the weight of mashed bananas making her grimace as my husband and I clap and clap. No, this isn’t true. The truth is I see his swollen stomach and think snake a field mouse pulled down its body like a baby wriggling in a stork’s knapsack. Does it hurt? I don’t know I don’t. Speaking of snakes, he once told me the froth crackling on leaves was snake spit. I thought of course of course a thing nape-soft and pleading through grass with harm balled in its throat would leave a mark. But this isn’t true either-- a snake doesn’t have to leave a signature before it tightens its tourniquet, and your tin can heart occasionally rattles until your brain bleeds. God I never even knew this man-- this unfamiliar body I hold. His stomach coming out swearing in a way the man never did as I change his shit-stained pajamas He wasn’t mean. He just never belonged to any place he entered. It wasn’t it’s not his fault--Grandpa used to lock Daddy in a room for days without food my mother once said as he idled in the car on my birthday. He stayed there until the pink streamers tangled in the trees. Sometimes, I believe I ate everything on my plate that night. Other times, I remember lying in bed, hunger pulling me close enough to hear a swallow.
-- Kindall Fredricks is a practicing registered nurse and an MFA candidate at Sam Houston State University, focusing on both poetry and the intersection of literature and the medical sciences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Letters, Rust + Moth, Quarterly West, Sugar House Review, NELLE, The Coachella Review, Menacing Hedge, WomensArts Quarterly, The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, The Academy of American Poets, and more. She resides in Texas with her husband, daughter, and two furballs.